The first time I came to Las Vegas was with my family during the winter holidays of 2007. Like all other tourists that come here, we went on a walking tour of the world famous Strip—we saw the Venetian, the Bellagio, the Mirage, MGM Grand, the Wynn.
On the Strip, all the casinos are connected by walkways like terminals in an airport. And to get from one to the next, we would have to cross the vast casino floors, past the blackjack tables, craps, poker and the beeping slot machines.
As we strolled through one casino after another, one thing began to strike me: so many dealers are Asian.
I didn’t know there were so many Asian people working in Vegas.
Then one evening, my family, being Chinese American, went looking for a Chinese restaurant for dinner. Naturally we looked up Chinatown on the map and made our way here, a couple miles off the Strip. Here we found lots of restaurants serving food from every region of China, but an endless array of shopping centers, with food from all over Asia.
As I started noticing the various ways Asian Americans have become part of this town, I began to wonder, who are these people? Why did they come and what do they do here? And also, why didn’t anyone know about them?
If you look at the demographic data published by the U.S. Census Bureau, Nevada has been home to the fastest growing Asian population in America for the last two decades. But even locals sometimes don’t know where Chinatown is.
So in producing this project, what i wanted to convey was a sense of this community, and to tell the stories of some of the Asian Americans who have made Las Vegas their home. 15 years ago, a Taiwanese entrepreneur from Southern California had a vision to build a Chinatown in Las Vegas. He brought over a construction crew and erected Chinatown Plaza practically overnight. The grandson of one of the earliest Chinese American millionaires is also the only Asian casino operator in town, and one of the few actually surviving the recession. And the humble mom-and-pop shop that Gourmet Magazine named as the Single Best Thai Restaurant in North America—that’s here in Las Vegas too.
They came here seeking economic opportunity and in the process became a part of Sin City history. So I invite you to read about them here.